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Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon

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Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon
Series: Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin #1
Published by William Morrow on February 21, 2017
Source: Publisher
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
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Retired New York City private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, society matron Hope Babbin, are off on a weeklong vacation to Maine, to visit Hope’s son and attend a master cooking class at the picturesque Oquossoc Mountain Inn. The worst tragedy they anticipate is a boring fellow guest or a fallen soufflé.

But their quiet idyll is disrupted by the arrival at the inn of a boorish couple, Alexander and Lisa Antippas, and Lisa’s sister, Glory. Imperious Hollywood one-percenters, Alex and Lisa are also the parents of the latest pop sensation, teen icon Artemis. Discord enters with the family, closely followed by disaster. When a suspicious late-night fire at the inn is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes.

Enter the local deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, who is Hope’s long-estranged son and a former student of Maggie’s. Buster needs a success, and Hope and Maggie, informed by a lifetime of observing human nature, coupled with a certain cynicism about small town justice and a healthy dose of curiosity, decide there is role for them to play here.

I expected to enjoy Death at Breakfast. It seemed right up my alley. Recently retired Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, Hope Babbin, are staying at an inn in Maine and attending a week-long (I think) cooking class held by the chef. A great setting, two intelligent but quirky amateur detectives and food – a promising set-up.

Quick review: Fine, but not outstanding. It’s not exactly a waste of time, but if you have something you’re dying to read, skip this and pick that one up instead. On the other hand, the choice of murder weapons is semi-unique.

I guess my main problem with the book is that the character I found most interesting is the one who ends up dead. And he was interesting because of his thoughts, his way of seeing the world, things that we no longer see once he’s dead.

Maggie and Hope are nice and smart, but I didn’t connect with either of them. There are a lot of characters in the book, hotel employees and permanent residents, cooking class guests, townspeople, the deputy sheriff and other cops, Maggie and Hope’s friends who help with the investigation. To be honest, they all just kind of blurred together and I had trouble keeping track of who was who and why they were there.

The mystery portion worked well. The clues were woven into the story; the cops were sufficiently focussed on the wrong person to make the interference of Maggie and Hope necessary. Several of the characters were potential suspects, although some motives were stronger than others. I did find the murder weapon noteable and slightly terrifying.

I’m not even sure why it’s titled Death at Breakfast. The murder happened in the middle of the night and everyone who mattered knew almost immediately, they didn’t just find out about it the next day over breakfast.

About Beth Gutcheon

Beth Gutcheon was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. She graduated from Harvard with an honors degree in English literature. After a stint in the editorial department of a Boston publishing house, she moved to New York’s SoHo district before it was legal and before it was SoHo, and worked free-lance in the arts throughout the seventies.

Since 1978 when her first novel, The New Girls, was published, Gutcheon has made her living full-time as a storyteller. She is the author of nine previous novels, all in print, and of many commissioned screenplays, including for the 20th Century Fox feature film Without a Trace, based on her novel, Still Missing. She has also contributed to New York Magazine, Savvy Magazine, The New York Times, the NYT Book Review, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other periodicals.

Beth Gutcheon currently lives in New York City with her husband and her elderly poodle, Daisy Buchanan.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet

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The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Max Tudor Mysteries #5
Published by Dreamscape Media on October 6, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 21 mins
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Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the good old days, when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. Father Max Tudor's invitation to dinner at the hall comes as a welcome novelty; it will be his first time meeting the famous family that once held sway in the area. Before he has time to starch his clerical collar and organize a babysitter, a sudden and suspicious death intervenes, and the handsome vicar's talent for sorting through clues to a murder is once again called into play in this charming and clever story.

I skipped #4 in the Max Tudor series, mostly because Father Max was getting married and having a baby and I just didn’t want to read about the new family, but I just couldn’t pass up the cover for The Haunted Season. Apparently I didn’t need to worry about the baby. He is so well-behaved and calm and peaceful that he barely causes a ripple in Max’s life. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, his mother after all is nearly perfect and a healer to boot. Hmm, that sounded meaner than I meant it to. I don’t dislike Awena, and in all honestly she’s not in much of this book.

Lord Baaden-Boomethistle is our deceased, decapitated by a wire strung between two trees while he was out riding his horse. We’ve got several suspects, mostly members of his family. There are a couple clues, a few secrets, and of course Max manages to put it all together, with some help from DCI Cotton, the recurring cop character.

If that was it, adding in the villagers and church members, and bit more of his new curate, Destiny, I would have enjoyed it more. There were a couple things that made me lower it a star or two. First, the miracle of the face on the wall. Not a big fan of miracles in otherwise straight forward (non-paranormal) mysteries. At the same time, Awena, Max’s wife, is actually a healer, like her touch, in addition to herbs and what-not, can physically heal people, so maybe it is partly paranormal, but overall it’s not, so those touches just don’t flow with the rest.

And the end was just not well done. To be honest, I don’t know why it was added on. There’s a big scene involving a character who is part of a theme in the series, but comes out of nowhere in this book. Instead of actually seeing the action, we end up getting an info dump where Max and DCI Cotton tell an associate what happened. It was clumsy. I think I might be done with the series.

I listened to the audio and I do think the narrator did a good job with the variety of characters – and there are a lot. I think listening to it was probably the better option, because at least when there was the long “here’s what happened,” it was kind of like we were part of the conversation too.

About G. M. Malliet

Malliet did post-graduate work at Oxford University after earning a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her earlier series, the St. Just mysteries. Raised in a military family, she spent her childhood in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Hawaii and has lived in places ranging from Japan to Europe, but she most enjoyed living in the U.K. She and her husband live across the river from Washington, D.C., in the colonial “village” of Old Town, Alexandria. Her hobbies include reading, hiking in the Blue Ridge, cooking vegetarian meals, and planning the next vacation. She writes full time nearly every day, and is writing a screenplay in addition to her mystery novels and short stories. She gets her ideas from people watching, particularly in airport waiting areas, train stations, parks, and restaurants.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #10
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on January 18, 2011 (first published 1934)
Source: Won
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 265
Format: Paperback
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“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

I had wanted to read Murder on the Orient Express again before watching the movie, and was lucky enough to win a copy in a Goodreads giveaway. This is at least the third time I’ve read it, but it’s one of those ones that I wish I could re-read for the first time. The solution is so perfect, but also so memorable.

Poirot is one of my favorite all-time detective and this particular mystery showcases his reasoning skills. The setting is perfect, a group of people are trapped in a train stuck in the snow, and clearly there is a killer on board. There is no access to people’s records, no way to check on their true identities, not contact with the outside world at all. I’ll grant you he manages to make some leaps in his deductions, but that’s part of his charm. It’s by no means a fair mystery, the reader can’t solve it, but I do love how all the clues and red herrings work together. I can’t say that the characters are well-developed, they’re mostly stereotypes, but that makes sense given the story.

Murder on the Orient Express is a low-key mystery. It’s mostly people talking, telling their versions of events. There is some hunting for clues, going through peoples luggage, building timelines, but there’s not much action, unlike in the trailer. There is some implied danger, but on re-readings that sense is lost a little.

Of course, I’m still looking forward to the movie. And the cast looks great.

About Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, a murder mystery, The Mousetrap, and six romances under the name Mary Westmacott. In 1971 she was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contribution to literature.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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